June 28, 2010

Growing in Service

BY Geoffrey G. Mbwana, President2010 1521 page10capSeven years ago, the East-Central Africa Division (ECD) was “born to serve.” Now it is “growing in service.” Its map displays a wealth of diversity in the people within 10 countries, of which six are from the Africa Great Lakes region: Burundi, Demo-cratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Four are located in the 10/40 window: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. In several of these countries, political and ethnic unrest have affected the lives of people. Yet, amid these challenges ECD ?witnessed significant ?developments.

At the close of 2004, the ECD family membership stood at 1,972,637. By the power of the Holy Spirit this number had grown to 2,579,147 by the end of 2009. The net increase of 606,510 is an annual average of 121,302, and so reflects the membership audits that were conducted to ascertain the actual numbers. East Congo Union had to face a drop from 83,648 to 42,498 in early 2009.

ECD is home to two of the largest and fastest growing unions in the world: East African Union with a total membership of 652,733 and an Advent-?ist-to-general population ratio of 1:61, and Rwanda Union with 468,344 and one of the highest ratios of 1:22.

Ethiopia, one of the oldest nations in the world, is believed to have accessed biblical knowledge following the visit of the Queen of Sheba to the court of King Solomon. Despite the stronghold of Orthodox Christianity and Islam, the Adventist Church now has 173,310 faithful members in the country.

GC link divreports There is also rapid church growth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—despite many years of hardships and uncertainty. The North East Congo Attached Territory has a current membership of 131,605. It now enjoys a modern office space, thanks to the Thirteenth Sabbath School Offering of the fourth quarter of 2006. The West Congo Union has a membership of 326,068, with even greater potential for growth. East Congo Union enjoys a membership of 47,028. Put together, DRC has a membership of 504,701.

One of the most densely populated countries in Africa, Burundi is a landlocked equatorial nation in the heart of ECD. The Adventist Church has struggled to grow in Bujumbura, the capital city. ECD identified Bujumbura as a beneficiary of the world church initiative “Hope for Big Cities.”

Djibouti is in the 10/40 window area. Regular dental and ophthalmologic services to the community have been provided by the Djibouti Advent-?ist Health Center since 1994. An English language school has been established, and recently,  the construction of a new building that will accommodate an ADRA office has been completed.

Lay members, pastors, and administrators at all levels of the church have passionately joined their efforts in spreading the gospel. Evangelistic initiatives from the world church, such as “Tell the World” and the “Year of Evangelism,” were successfully implemented throughout the division, hence the motto: “Tell Your Neighbor, One by One.”

From Kenya in 2007 the Nairobi Central SDA Church hosted the first ever Swahili satellite evangelistic series SAFARI AFRICA (the Journey of Hope Africa), with  Geoffrey Mbwana, ECD president, as the main speaker. In February 2010 another satellite evangelistic series, HOPE 2010, presented by Pardon Mwansa, one of the general vice presidents of the General Conference, was aired into hundreds of churches and thousands of homes from Nairobi New Life SDA Church. As a result of these major events thousands were brought to Jesus.

Rwanda Union Mission school building, Gisenyi

We are grateful to our partners in mission who contributed to our shared achievements, including (from the North American Division) Southern Union Conference, North Pacific Union Conference, Arizona Conference, ShareHim, Brooklyn Adventist Youth Society, ASI, BMW, and Outreach Canada. The Korean Union Conference, Maha Mission, Congo Frontline Mission, the South Pacific Division, and many others also contributed greatly. Together with Global Frontier International, ECD has identified the unreached language groups under the project “ECD Language Group Progress Scale.” This will enable ECD to target and monitor the progress of ministering to yet unreached language groups.

The impact of media and communication technology in mission is tremendous. Ben Schoun, AWR president, describes AWR and TV as the air force of evangelism. There are recording studios in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania, and FM radio stations in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, the DRC, and Burundi to air programs in the local language. Low-power television stations are now airing messages of hope in the cities of Kinshasa and Goma (DRC), Kigali (Rwanda), Jinja (Uganda), and Kisii and Kitui (Kenya).

The West Congo Union is one of the ECD’s major targets that will make use of TV/radio technology to reach out to 10 million Kinshasa inhabitants.

Reaching Out Through Education
The University of Eastern Africa, Baraton (UEAB), is a financially self-supporting university, specializing in offerings in sciences. It has grown in academic disciplines and infrastructure, and boasts an enrollment ranging between 2,400 and 2,600 students. While it already offers a doctoral program in education, it is now studying the possibility of starting what would be the first Adventist medical school in the region. The university has a strong outreach program, which results in annual baptisms close to 1,000.

The Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA) was relocated to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, after the genocide. It grew from 350 students in 2005 to more than 2,200 students, the majority of whom are not Adventists. These have the opportunity to access Christian education.

Located in the mountainous region of the northeastern part of the DRC, Lukanga Adventist University (UNILUK) has experienced a period of hardship because of political instability. Recently, the region has become more peaceful and the university has increased its enrollment from 300 to 700. The government has granted authorization to operate a hospital that will serve the growing population in the region.

God has blessed ECD with faithful church members who contribute their time, energy, talents, and resources in support of the gospel work. Throughout this quinquennium, ECD has enjoyed an average annual increase of 20 percent in the returning of tithe, despite often-challenging prevailing conditions. We have had an increase in tithe every succeeding year since we started; we are close to achieving our strategic goal of tripling tithe in eight years.

Leaders study Uniluk Hospital architectural plan

Committed members support mission in building houses of worship and schools. A steady development in infrastructure is taking place in Rwanda. Matthew Bediako, secretary of the General Conference, commended this development during his recent administrative visit.

In the Adventist administrative system, mission status is a temporary arrangement for any administrative entity. East African Union Mission (EAUM) and Tanzania Union Mission (TUM) are leading the way toward conference status. As of now, TUM has organized the fifth conference out of the six entities. Recently, it submitted the request for union conference status, initiating a careful review process. Earlier this year, EAUM organized two more conferences, bringing the total number of organized conferences to five with three fields remaining. The EAUM envisages union conference ?status in the near future, hoping to possibly be organized into two union conferences. Uganda Union Mission reached a notable achievement by organizing Central Uganda Conference.

Leadership Training
According to Floyd Bresee, every Sabbath “80 percent of Adventist sermons preached are preached by lay preachers—usually, but not always, by local church elders.”* Training our members is an urgent necessity. Plans are in place to provide our members and local leadership with church manuals, church elders’ manuals, volumes about Seventh-day Adventist beliefs, Spirit of Prophecy books, etc.

ECD has focused on the area of leadership education at all levels of church. Seminars and workshops have been conducted during the past quinquennium. “Total Church Life Strategy” launching involved all ECD leaders to teaming up in training all pastors and church delegates across the unions.

Since the upgrading of church workers remains a priority, ECD has allocated significant resources annually. Recently, the first cohort, majoring in a master-level degree in pastoral theology and leadership, graduated from the new Adventist University of Africa.


The joy of following Christ—one life at a time.

At a time when tribalism and ethnic conflicts are affecting many regions of the continent, unity remains a challenge, not only outside but also within the church. The message of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation was delivered by Jan Paulsen, president of the world church, to church members and the community at large in ECD during his comforting visit to Kenya soon after the post-elections crisis.

Church committees have been encouraged to reflect the spirit of fairness and impartiality upon personnel recruitment. The “Follow the Bible” initiative has been a concrete symbol of unity that gathers all of us around the Word of God. The heavenly Father “has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26, NKJV).†

It is with a great sense of appreciation that we acknowledge the leading hand of the Lord and the faithfulness of our church members for all the accomplishments made during this quinquennium. We thank the General Conference and all our partners for their support. On behalf of the ECD members and its workers, I wish to express my sincere thanks to the world church united in session. Maranatha!

* W. Floyd Bresee, Successful Lay Preaching (Silver Spring, Md.: Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1997), p. 13.

†Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.